Health and Fitness

‘If people see me at the match they’ll know I’ve been vaccinated and think me a hypocrite!’

The old man swings into the gaff and it’s straight away obvious that he’s in a bit of a state.

“Sixty-eight years!” he goes. “Sixty-eight bloody well years! That’s how long it is since I’ve missed a Five – or Six Nations Championship match at Lansdowne Road!”

I’m like, “Dude, it’s midnight.”

“The twenty-second of January, nineteen-hundred-and-fifty-five!” he goes. “That was my first match – and me just a chap! My father took me to witness the debut of a young Doctor! Sir Anthony! Joseph! Francis! O’Reilly! Ireland three, France five! Quote – unquote! I blubbed all the way home in the cor! My father said, never mind the result – that young chap you saw win his first cap today will be the greatest Irish player to ever lace boots! And you can tell everyone that you were there from the very stort! And I did, Ross! I think in my first twenty years in business, I dropped it into introductions!”

I’m like, “Dude, are you twisted?”

He goes, “I never missed a match, Ross! Throughout the lean years of the Sixties – all those bloody well wooden spoons! The Five Nations championship win of 1974! The Triple Crowns of the 1980s! England put to the sword – at Croke bloody Pork of all places! Then the Grand Slam of 2009! I saw it all, Kicker! For almost seventy years! But it’s coming to an end, Ross! Let the record show that when Ireland take on Wales on the fifth day of February, two-thousand-and-twenty-two, Chorles O’Carroll-Kelly will be morked as absent!”

I’m like, “Dude, what the fock are you talking about?”

“Well, it seems that, as a condition of admission to the so-called Aviva Stadium, all patrons must be – inverted commas – vaccinated!”

I laugh – no choice in the matter.

“And, well,” he goes, “you know New Republic’s position on the vaccine, Ross.”

“That it will turn us all into woke, Godless, fennel-munching, sustainable-energy-loving liberals,” I go.

He’s like, “That’s it! Got it in a nutshell!”

“But you’ve actually been vaccinated,” I go. “Er – and boosted? Didn’t some doctor mate of Hennessy’s get his hands on a s**t-load of the stuff – even before the elderly and the vulnerable got it?”

“If he was a doctor, Ross, it was only in the sense that Sir Anthony Joseph Francis O’Reilly was a doctor! No, I think this chap had something to do with spinal injuries in horses! That’s why I don’t have one of these famous vaccination certs.”

“Ronan can get you a cert,” I go. “I think his mate Nudger is actually selling them.”

“Hennessy’s got a chap who deals in them too!” he goes. “But that’s not the issue! Don’t you see, that if people see me at the match – in all my famous glory, not to mention my lucky camel hair coat! – they’ll know that I’ve been vaccinated! And they’ll think me a hypocrite!”

“But you are a hypocrite.”

“That’s a gross libel, Ross! I would orgue that, like a great many politicians, I have a public position, as well as a private position! But if my private position ever became public, well, I suspect that it wouldn’t play well with the public – private or not!”

I laugh. I’m there, “This was actually worth getting out of bed for?”

He goes, “I’m glad you find you find it so amusing, Ross! That for the first time in nigh on seven decades, the chaps will have to face into a championship match at Lansdowne Road without Chorles O’Carroll-Kelly roaring them on! Hennessy said it won’t be the same!”

“No,” I go, “it’ll be quieter. People will be able to actually watch the match without having to tell you to sit down and shut the fock up every thirty seconds.”

“People enjoy my running commentary on the games, Kicker! As someone once said – it may have even been me! – my match analysis is as much a port of the colour and pageantry of the occasion as a pint in Doheny & Nesbitt’s beforehand!”

“How many times have you been punched? I saw someone try to throw you over the edge of the stand.”

“Like the chap said – all port of the pageantry! Aren’t you going to invite me in, Ross?”

“No, Sorcha doesn’t want you in the house.”

“Why on earth not?”

“Er – because you haven’t been vaccinated ?”

“But I have been vaccinated! And boosted!”

“The public don’t know that, though.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“As in, like, the neighbours?”

“Oh, I understand you now!”

“Her private position is that you’re welcome here any time – but her public position is that you can get back in your chauffeured cor there and fock off.”

“I see! Who’d be a politician, eh, Ross?”

“Hang on,” I go, because I’ve got my phone in my hand and I’m reading the IRFU guidelines. “It says here that you can attend the match as long as you can prove that you have immunity. You can either show that you are fully vaccinated – or that you’ve recovered from Covid within the last six months.”

“I’m familiar with the guidelines, Ross!”

“But you’ve recovered from Covid. Didn’t you have it before Christmas?”

“Yes, but that was as a private citizen! As a public representative, I don’t want people to know that I had it!”

“Oh, yeah, what with you telling people for about year that it didn’t even exist.”

“I didn’t say it didn’t exist, Ross! I said it was created on a petri-dish as port of a plan by the world’s political and financial elite to socially and economically cripple the planet and create the conditions that will allow a restructuring of how the world is governed!”

“But you don’t actually believe that.”

“Publicly? Yes! Privately? Don’t be ridiculous! So you can see my dilemma!”

“It’s great that you’re not going to be there. I’ll be able to actually hear myself think while I’m taking notes in my Rugby Tactics Book.”

“Unless. . . he suddenly goes.

And I’m like, “Unless what?” with a note of dread in my voice.

“Unless,” he goes, “I go to the match wearing some sort of clever disguise!”

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